‘Sheep’ and ‘vineyards’ no longer
It’s almost Lent and thoughts may turn to quiet contemplation of Jesus’ “sheep” and “vineyards.” But now the sheep have dispersed to 1,001 flocks, and the vineyards have spread to 1,001 sites.
In Jesus’ time, the “sheep” were simple folk, farmers and fishers, grape pickers and pruners; the not-so-simple Scribes and Pharisees; the Herods, Roman soldiers and officials.
The “vineyards” were hills and valleys, synagogues and villages, lakeside and desert, too. Galilee, Jordan, Tabor, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Nazareth are household names.
What do we have now? Just here in the Philippines, we have a mélange of millions, as distant as pioneers in some places, compressed to the last square inch in the rest.
We have huge colonies of urban dwellers trapped in poverty with ignorance and ill-health trailing behind; victims of EJKs and street crimes. We have tillers of the land and fishers who push out to sea before the crack of dawn; an “over-entertained,” underpaid, and underemployed populace. Whatever prompted the framers of the December 2013 “Questionnaire” for the 2014 “Extraordinary Synod on the Family” to ask “How can an increase in births be promoted?” instead of a sensible question or suggestion, like learning to regulate births in a right way?
In gated enclaves are the rich and superrich controlling and enjoying the upbeat economy. There are the soaring condos peopled by thousands, pouring thousands of vehicles into the streets.
There are the millennials poised and ready (?) to take center stage with minds and views of their own sometimes diametrically opposed to those of their elders. And what about the millions of internet users ruling a whole new world, in whose ranks is an army of trolls that would institutionalize fake news? Not stopping with terrestrials, some “ladies who breakfast” assert, “Elementals are roaming the land now and lines wait for exorcism; they have certainly penetrated social media”—to which most of us agreed, as far out as it sounded.
So complicated has family become that every other Catholic family friend of ours (ours included) has a separated, single, live-in, annulled, divorced, remarried member, who under today’s circumstances cannot simply pray together and, ergo, stay together. Serious as these are, it is myopic to obsess over sexual morality as the highest matter and measure of good or evil. Rambling from one topic to another, the homilist paused on Cha-cha. Good, I thought. But what did he say? “The danger about Cha-cha is that divorce, same-sex marriage, abortion et al. may find their way into our very Christian Constitution.”
No man is an island. Now touched by the Islamic State, our Moros are on a reawakened presence with a finality of conditions that must be met. Add the giant bites on our sovereignty in our territories in the South China Sea. And what about our indigenous peoples like the “lumad,” who are marginalized in their own land?
How does one “evangelize” such diverse communities of wealth and poverty, in strife over religion, ethnicity, territory, self-determination, environmental depletion, defilement by dictatorial tendencies, and greed?
Even Jesus would say: You can’t remain with my sheep and vineyards, nor repeat and repeat my parables. If I were with you I’d have to draw metaphors from technology, talk as the people talk, know what and how they think. You need to acquire a new language and a new attitude. Pope Francis knows how. See how he connects; see how kind and nonjudgmental he is. I know you’re trying. You have launched the “new evangelization.” How “new” is it, how is it done? See that it does not become another cliché like “preferential option for the poor” or “empowerment of the laity” or “circles of discernment.” Nice phrases.
All this may look like doom and gloom. But gloom perhaps, doom no. Good persists, and so does beauty. But that’s another story.
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Asuncion David Maramba (marda_ph @yahoo.com) is a retired professor, book editor and occasional journalist.
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